German Court Issues Warrants for C.I.A. Agents

BERLIN, Jan. 31 — Prosecutors in the southern German city of Munich today obtained warrants for 13 CIA agents they say were involved in the kidnapping of a German citizen, Khaled el Masri.

Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld, the Munich prosecutor, said the warrants had been issued by a local court this week.

The Bush administration has resisted any suggestion that it might allow the extradition of American agents. But even without extraditions, the warrants could prove embarrassing and even politically damaging for Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Mr. Steinmeier was chief of staff for the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, whose coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens had been in power at that time and had taken a tough stance against the American invasion of Iraq.

After repeatedly denying any knowledge of the el- Masri case, Mr. Steinmeier last year admitted that he had been informed about it.

Mr. Steinmeier is already under pressure to reveal what role he may have played in preventing the release and return to Germany of Murat Kurnaz, a German-Turk who had been arrested in Afghanistan in 2001, sent to Afghanstan where he said he had been abused by German security agents, and then transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

According to Mr. Kurnaz’s lawyer, the United States had offered to release Mr. Kurnat, provided the German authorities adopted strict security measures, including round-the-clock surveillance. The German government refused to accept his release. He finally returned to Germany in August 2006 after Mr. Schro”der’s successor, Chanceller Angela Merkel, demanded that he be sent home.

The 13 C.I.A. agents have been charged with kidnapping and inflicting bodily harm on Mr. el Masri, who was abducted in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia in December 2003.

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He has charged that he was drugged, beaten and then flown by the C.I.A. to a detention center in Afghanistan. Mr. Masri says he was held there for five months before the American government flew him to Albania and left him there.

Mr. el Masri, a Muslim of Lebanese origin who lives in southern Germany, is suing the American authorities for damages.

According to ARD, Germany’s public television broadcaster which had been investigating the el Masri case for several months, the Munich prosecutors received the names of 13 individuals from the Spanish authorities. The broadcaster said that it appeared that several of the CIA kidnappings, including that of el Masri, originated from the Spanish island of Mallorca.

According to a report by the Spanish police, Mr. el Masri was kidnapped by a group of 13 CIA agents traveling aboard a Boeing 737. The plane left Mallorca on 23 January 2004, picked up Mr. el Masri in Macedonia and continued on to Afghanistan. Spanish officials managed to obtain all the names of those on board, including copies of some of the passengers’ passports.

A similar case has been moving forward in Italy, where a judge in 2005 ordered the arrest of 13 C.I.A. agents in connection with the abduction in Milan of a Muslim cleric.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday January 31, 2007.
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